Thanks for taking some time to take a look at my new blog! I am sitting in another airport, this time waiting for a flight on Emirates Airways which will take me all the way out to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I will be taking classes at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and working toward a master’s degree.
During the next several months, I plan to frequently post journal entries and pictures of my adventures and wanderings in the Middle East. I got terrific feedback from y’all (my family and friends) with my BeijingAg blog two years ago and I hope to be at least as faithful with this one.
For those who aren’t as familiar with my plans for the next year, let me try to describe the program I will be attending for the next year or so. KAUST is a brand new graduate research university built near Jeddah, the cultural and religious hub of the country. Nearly all Muslim pilgrims from around the world will travel through Jeddah on their way to Mecca and Medina for the Hajj, a religious pilgrimage to visit the hometown of the Prophet Mohammed (PBOH) and the birthplace of the religion of Islam. Because so many people come through Jeddah, it is a very international city, and many people from Asia, Africa, and even Europe and the Americas now live there.
KAUST’s self-described purpose is to act as a beacon of knowledge for Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and the world. I’ve heard KAUST called Saudi Arabia’s “great experiment” to bring foreign minds and students together in Saudi Arabia to solve some of the world’s big challenges. KAUST has already attracted some big-name researchers from around the globe in the fields of solar energy, saltwater desalination, air pollution modeling, and biological computing, materials science, pharmaceuticals, and plant genetics, among others.
This marriage of international minds and technology with Saudi Arabian capital has strong potential. KAUST is already endowed with several billion dollars and the finest research and computing equipment money can buy. This will be an exciting place form those on the cutting edge to conduct their research.
However, for at least the first few weeks I expect the atmosphere to be chaotic as administrators, students, and faculty all move in and try to find their niches during this inaugural year of KAUST. Chaotic and exciting – we will meet many new people, some of who seek to change the world, some who just want to earn a comfortable wage with a good job, and all of whom have at least some sense of adventure. I look forward to the open doors and new friends to be discovered in the next several months. I think this future semester will be both exciting and fulfilling, In’shallah, and I cannot wait to tell you all about it!